3 Weeks of Tour de Fleece and 3-Ply Sock Yarn

Check out Tour de Fleece Week 1 and Week 2.

Tour de Fleece is a most excellent challenge. One year I might set out to spin enough yarn for a sweater, but I’m pretty happy using the time to learn about spinning. I planned to work through Drafting Worsted to Woolen but never got past the short forward draft. No complaints because I want to spin smoother, more consistent yarn which is hard to do with long-draw. Besides from the bump of orange merino I started with, I didn’t set aside any fiber beforehand. I dug through my stash and grabbed what caught my eye. Not the most efficient way to rock Tour de Fleece but it worked for me. In three weeks, I spun a worsted-weight 3-ply, a thick and thin single, and a 3-ply sock yarn.  

The first 2 yards were great but the sock yarn was this year’s challenge. I’ve been wanted to spin sock yarn for years and who knows how long I would have put it off if not for the Tour. Unlike my usual modus operandi, I didn’t go a lot of research before hand. I’ve been working towards spinning finer and finer yarn for the past few months and decided to just do it. I looked up sock yarn constructions in The Spinner’s Book of Yarn Designs and went for an opposing 3-ply construction because I’d never spun that style of yarn before. 

The other yarns spun up quickly and I suppose this one did too. Each of the 3 singles took about 3 days to draft. I reminded myself every time I sat down at my wheel that the third single had to go in the opposite direction so I wouldn’t forget.

Plying happened over during the last two days of the Tour. Sunday was pretty much a marathon plying session filled with lots of tv and I got finished yarn at the end of the day. It’s actually sock weight too! Putting it together was interesting because the yarn looked like one single wasn’t evenly tensioned with the other two. My guess is that putting more twist into the opposing ply of the opposing ply sock yarn is the reason. We’ll see how it relaxes after I give it a soak to set the twist.

At the end of the tour I’d spun 10 ounces of fiber which turned into 7 plies, 4 skeins of yarn (plus leftovers), and 875 yards. Not bad for three weeks of spinning. My short forward draw is much improved, and I’ve got the confidence to spin more sock yarn. Learning and improving my craft  are the reasons that I look forward to spinning during Tour de Fleece every year. The yarn doesn’t hurt either.

Still Rocking Tour de Fleece

I feel like I spun so much during the first 9 days of Tour de Fleece and so little last week. I took a break on the first rest day and then another the next day but I’ve been spinning (and binge watching Gilmore Girls) every day since. My only project has been the sock yarn I started on the 9th day. As fine as the singles are, I’ve been making good time and finishing one every 3 days. I started the third yesterday which means I should have just enough time to finish it, and ply them all together by the end of Tour on Sunday. Fingers crossed. Or not, it’s hard to draft that way. 

I didn’t spin a sample since I only had 4 ounces and decided to make sock yarn on a lark. So, it might be a little too thick to count as fingering weight. That’s fine by me though since I like heavier fingering weight yarns for knitting socks. Especially when I’ve promised said sock yarn to size 14 feet.

My thick-and-thin Columbia/Firestar single couldn’t take up space on my last bobbin any more so I skeined it up. I just couldn’t get the idea of keeping it as a single and striping it with another single. Maybe it’ll be a hat or maybe a shawl, but it’s going to turn into stripes. Before that I have to set twist and I hope it’ll plump up into more than the sport weight it averages now.

Happy spinning during the final days of Tour de Fleece 2015!

Rocking the First Week of Tour de Fleece

The first week of Tour de Fleece is over and Monday was the first rest day. Instead of spinning anyway, I took the opportunity to empty my bobbins, inspect my new handspun, and prep for the next week of making all the yarn.

The first yarns off the bobbins were these two skeins of Ashland Bay Merino in Apricot. I’ve had the image in my head of a smooth, lustrous 3-ply since I bought the fiber several months ago and am so happy that I was able to pull it off. Thanks to watching Drafting From Worsted to Woolen I was able to consistently use a short-forward draft without getting lazy and switching over to long-draw. Slow as it was, the short forward draw allowed me to spin finer singles which means this is my first 3-ply worsted weight yarn.  My other attempts have all ended up bulky. I even got some decent yardage, 192 yds, which is more than enough for a slouchy hat. 

The mini skein, another 40 yards, is a leftover single plied with itself. It’s 2 plies turned into a mostly sport weight yarn. 

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I dipped into some of my stash acquisitions from Stitches West. This uneven single started as two ounces of Columbia wool and Firestar pencil roving from Carolina Homespun. When I started spinning, I was sure I wanted it to be a fat single. Unfortunately, only the last half of the single is anything close to what I was going for. Can’t decide if I should leave it as it is or ply it for a more even yarn.

Here’s my current yarn-in-progress and it’s also my biggest challenge this year. Since I’ve gotten more comfortable with the short forward draw over the past weeks (and liking the resulting handspun), I’m attempting to spin my first skein of sock yarn. Why wait for the challenge day to do something difficult?

This yarn will also be a 3-ply but I’m trying out an opposing ply construction, two of the singles are spun in one direction with the third spun in the direction of the plying twist, that I found in The Spinner’s Book of Yarn Designs by Sarah Anderson on page 129. The extra twist that goes into the opposing single during plying is thought to add durability and elasticity to the finished yarn. The fiber I’m using is 100% Cheviot wool, which my reference say is fairly durable, but I’m hoping this construction will compensate for the lack of nylon. I wouldn’t be surprised if I spent the rest of the Tour spinning this one skein of sock yarn, but I’m going have fun doing it. 

What are you spinning for Tour de Fleece? 

Another Day, Another Skein of Handspun

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Another skein of handspun washed, dry, and ready for its close up. It was spun just to be spun. Well, kind of. When I first dug the fiber out of my stash, I wanted to see if I could spin a fingering weight yarn on my wheel using my current whorls. So far, everything I’ve spun has ranged from sport to heavy worsted. The skeins’ random thin bits don’t really count. The last intentional fingering yarn I spun was on a spindle during Tour de Fleece 2013. After playing around with the settings, I was sure I’d figured out how to spin a fingering yarn. I put on the smallest, fastest whorl I had, 11:1, and set a high take-up. The only thing left to do was start spinning.

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What I ended up with is definitely not a fingering weight yarn. What it definitely is, is a sport weight with sections of fingering and worsted mixed in. The yarn is beautiful and soft, but not really what I was going for. Oh well. Might teach me to start spinning small sample skeins before starting a project. Who am I kidding? That’s never going to happen when I’m spinning a single 4 oz bump of fiber.

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Those precious little bumps of fiber are one-off pleasures. Usually, I’m not spinning with a specific project in mind. I spin them to enjoy the process and do something with wool. I want to enjoy the color and the feel of fiber moving through my hands. Of course, I want the yarn too but said yarn is a finished object of its own. It isn’t just a step in the larger process of a shawl of a sweater. It needs to be appreciated as yarn first before it morphs into something else. Plus, I feel like I’m wasting that tiny little bit I’d be tearing off for a sample.

I’m sure I’ll be more scientific and detail-orientated when I start spinning for large projects that  require more than 1 skein. I’ll take notes and spin sample skeins. I promise. Until that happens, I’ll enjoy the process and the inevitable stash enhancement.

The Specs

Fiber: Spunky Eclectic Handpainted Falkland

Color: Diesel

490 Yards

Sport Weight; 12-13 WPI

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Spinning Targhee

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I bought some hand dyed Targhee wool from SpunkyEclectic.com way back in January. Having never heard of the breed before it I saw it on the site, I was curious about how it would spin. The internet wasn’t very forth coming on the matter and I haven’t yet invested in a weighty tome about fiber type which meant that the best way to learn about Targhee wool would be to actually spin some. 

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For the learning process, I fell back to my default yarn, a woolen spun 2-ply. The only prep I had to do was to split the roving in half lengthwise. Then it was time to spin. The first single was a little wild and inconsistent because I had to get my spinning fingers back. The second single was much more consistent. Due to these differences, I made the executive decision to ply each single back on itself though that probably wasn’t necessary. In the end I came out with 2 wonderful skeins and about 300 yards.  

Now that I’ve spun up about 4 oz of Targhee wool, I can type that Targhee is some of my favorite wool to spin. Definitely top 5 along with Falkland, Corriedale, and Blue Faced Leicester. It was easy draft and has a wonderful, soft hand. The staple length was several inches long and easy to work with. Whether to the specific breed, woolen spin, or how I finished the twist, the finished yarn bloomed significantly. During spinning, the second single was between a fingering and sport weight. After finishing, the yarn bloomed up to mostly a heavy worsted and lengths of super bulky.  

Looks like a super fun yarn to knit and I can’t wait to actually knit with it though I have no idea what to knit with it. I do know it will be warm and cosy. 

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Spring 2013

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It’s officially spring. Thankfully, there’s no snow on the ground but there’s enough pollen floating around to make up for the lack of flurries. 

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To celebrate the budding leaves and try to forget about coming pollen apocalypse, I pulled out a hibernating project. Back in the beginning of February I really wanted to spin some beautifully dyed Targhee from SpunkyEclectic.com. I split the roving in half and even spun a few yards before having to put the project aside for something else. I kept meaning to come back to it again but didn’t actually grab it until yesterday. Know what? The spinning was great and my fingers hadn’t forgotten what to do. 

My goal is to enjoy working with Targhee, finish spinning the singles, and ply everything together before summer. Then I might do something wild and actually knit with my own handspun.  

Anyone else using the start of Spring as an excuse to pull out some languishing projects? What are you working on?

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No Clue

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I have a confession to make. I have been a very bad spinner this year. With the exception of a tiny mini skein (not even 10 yards after plying), I haven’t touched my spindles since 2012. The fact that I’ve been starring at bump after bump of beautiful fiber only makes things worse. 

The problem is that I want to spin but I have no idea what the finished yarn should be. Should it be 2-ply, 3-ply, or a chain-ply? Should I aim for fingering weight, worsted, or bulky? Indecision, you are not helpful. Usually, I’ll pick up a bump of fiber and know exactly what I what to do with it. This time, I have no clue.

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At least my indecision hasn’t spread to what fiber to spin. Number 1 in the queue is 4 oz of Targhee wool, dyed in the “Moose Moss” colorway, from SpunkyEcletic.com. I’ve never spun Targhee before but I’m curious. Wikipedia tells me interesting trivia about the Targhee Sheep’s range and size but not much about their wool. The only way to really learn, is to start spinning. But what to spin? I’m at a complete loss. Any suggestions or tips?

On Tour

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Another day, another skein for Tour de Fleece. This skein counts as number four on the Tour and, while it’s just a simple 2-ply, there’s something special about it. When I start spinning a new project I’m usually at home with a collection of books for reference and the internet to come to my rescue if I need it. This time was different since last Thursday night, I packed up a spindle and some fiber with my usual luggage for a road trip to visit friends. We talked, baked brownies, watched an Italian horror film from the 60’s that was so bad it was good, and generally had a good time. I also started spinning  this yarn. It was just me and the fiber. No books. No open laptop. Just me. You know what happened? I made yarn with my own hands and my head and no frenetic last minute questions. Feels good even though the spindle did keep dropping. I didn’t finish the spinning and start plying until after I got back home but it’s still road trip yarn and a nice milestone. 

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Spunky Eclectic Tan Corriedale Top - 4 oz. - Coxstand

Mostly Aran Weight 2-ply

264 yards